Healthy relationships have been described many ways throughout the course of human history, but a new analogy comes straight out of Hot Girl Summer. According to Dan Siegel, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, we should think of our relationships as fruit salads and not smoothies. You may be thinking, “I’ve never thought about any of my relationships as a smoothie, does this apply to me?” Also: “Now I’m hungry and feel compelled to buy a $12 smoothie from Whole Foods.” First, yes it does. And second, I love this journey for you.
I also love this analogy, because it involves two of my favorite things: chopped fruit and talking about my failed relationships. Essentially, what we’re supposed to get is that a “smoothie” relationship is not healthy because you blend together and lose yourself in the relationship, while a “fruit salad” relationship allows you to maintain your independence and sense of self while still being connected to your partner.
“We are often taught that romantic relationships should ‘complete us’ or be our everything,” says Dee Stacey, certified sexual health educator for Blume. “But this isn’t actually a healthy relationship practice!” We’ve been fed (ha!) this idea that true love means you simply cannot go on without the other person. While it can feel good to “blend” into another person, it will not feel good to lose your identity.
While it can feel good to “blend” into another person, it will not feel good to lose your identity.
“One person can’t meet all of your physical, emotional, and social needs. Maintaining your individuality allows you to thrive in other relationships—with friends, family, and yourself—so you can achieve the balanced level of support you deserve,” Stacey says. When you go full Edward and Bella in your romantic relationships, your other relationships can suffer, along with your goals, hobbies, and careers, she adds.
So how can you keep from putting yourself and your partner into a metaphorical Vitamix? “Remember that healthy relationships are made up of respect, communication, trust, and reciprocity—none of which require you to be ‘one’ with the other person,” says Stacey. She recommends that you make alone time for yourself, like going for a walk, journaling, self-pleasure (mischievous face emoji), or practicing a hobby. “It might also foster a sense of appreciation for our partner, because neither person feels they need to be together to survive, but that it is their choice,” she adds.
Western culture is uniquely concerned with individualism, notes Stacey. “I strongly value self-care, but I also value collective-care, care in our community,” she says. “Studies are coming out right now that show generations thrive when we connect elders with toddlers, and middle-aged folks with youth. However, we can’t foster collective care if we are feeling lost as individuals. We have to start somewhere, and being happy and content alone is a very good place to start.”
You know what they say about love—first you’ve gotta love yourself in all your chopped fruit glory, even the honeydew parts. Is this a Lizzo song? Because I am feeling independent and good as hell.
Here’s how to use your love languages to improve your relationship with yourself. And this expert thinks you should treat your relationship as a rental—here’s why.